London-based songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist William Phillips’s music as Tourist is aptly named. For the past decade, he’s taken a solo journey through various sonic landscapes, exploring the nuances of beats and melodies in electronic music. The latest stop on this journey comes with his forthcoming album, Memory Morning, which he’s bringing to Canvas in May.
Growing up in London and Cornwall, Phillips fell in love with rave music by the likes of Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers and Goldie, before gravitating towards the melodies of house and synth pop. All of this shapes the Tourist sound, which has evolved across three solo albums.
His earliest work leans towards the rough ‘n’ ready dancefloor jams that defined his youth, but he’s since yielded to a more tender and reflective side, his last LP Inside Out a gently melancholic but ultimately uplifting album that expresses the interlocking of grief and joy. Full of swinging garage grooves, chunky bass, and French filter house melodies, it won accolades across the global music media.
On the side of his solo career Phillips has amassed an impressive portfolio of remix work for everyone from Christine and the Queens to The Weeknd via Caroline Polachek. And then there’s the small matter of winning a Grammy Award as a co-writer for Sam Smith’s massive hit single ‘Stay With Me’.
Tourist’s fourth album, Memory Morning, is due for release on Monday Records in spring. Made with a simple home set-up – an OP1 synthesizer, a laptop, a smartphone – the record charts new territory, one that absorbs the “lush strangeness” of shoegaze and psychedelic bands like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins, as well as the collagist nostalgia of Phillips’s “utter heroes”, The Avalanches.
Following closely behind ‘EST’, ‘Second Nature’ and ‘A Little Bit Further’, the album’s latest single, ‘Valentine’, sees Phillips build a free-flowing, progressive-house beat from a fragmented vocal, retaining the atmospheric, sample-based approach that has so far defined this new album. It turns away from the dancefloor-centric tracks of his youth to focus on a disorientating kind of scene-setting, drawing on those shoegaze and psychedelic influences.
The rest of the record, due for release on 19 April, moves between many different sonic pallets; from the swirling pianos of opener ‘Lifted Out’, to the huge, Vangelis-esque synths of ‘Ithaca’, to the pulsing house beat on ‘Crush’, each track creates an immersive and dreamlike atmosphere in its own way, blending folk vocals, synth lines, and nostalgic melodic house ambience.
“I wanted to write something that felt like it whisked you away”, Phillips explains, “an album that felt like a ‘place’, its own world, somewhere you might find new corners with each listen. It truly is the first album I’ve written that feels like the sum of all of my influences, I’ve a pop tendency in my heart and I think Memory Morning doesn’t shy away from those instincts. Fundamentally, it’s inspired by dreams, memories and all those in-between experiences that are sometimes better expressed through music.”
Having toured extensively around the world, while scoring support slots with the likes of Bonobo, Philips knows how to bring his immersive, yearning music to life for a live audience. We can’t wait to catch him at Canvas on 24 May.